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06/13/2011

5 South Florida men charged with large-scale copper theft ring in Georgia

ATLANTA - Jacinto "Pachi" Diaz, 45, of Miami, was arraigned late Friday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Hagy on federal charges relating to a ring allegedly responsible for a large-scale theft of copper wire from the Southwire Company in Carrollton, Ga., in 2010.

The case involving the alleged theft of 129,000 pounds of copper wire is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Carrollton Police Department.

Diaz was ordered to be detained pending a trial. He was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on May 26 as he attempted to cross the border from Hidalgo, Texas into Mexico. Diaz was wanted on an outstanding arrest warrant since April 20, after a federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned a superseding indictment against him and co-defendants Henry Diaz, 26, of Miami, Mario Baras Gonzalez, 47, of Miami Beach, Fla., and Jesus Ramirez, 26, of Homestead, Fla., who were previously arraigned. Co-defendant Anthony Foubelo, 31, of Miami, has already pleaded guilty to the same charges.

"This extensive investigation involved not only HSI special agents in Atlanta and Miami, but also the Carrollton Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations," said Brock Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta. "This case is an excellent example of how teamwork among state, local and federal agencies can disrupt these types of large-scale criminal activities and ensure that those involved are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Starting approximately April 29, 2010, Gonzalez, Ramirez and Foubelo, at the direction of co-defendants Henry Diaz and Jacinto Diaz, allegedly posed as truck drivers working on behalf of a legitimate shipping company to pick up approximately 129,000 pounds ($465,000 worth) of copper wire and deliver it to various destinations in Indiana.Gonzalez, Ramirez and Foubelo allegedly used false aliases to pick up the copper wire from Southwire and steal it across state lines into Florida. The conspiracy charge against the defendants in the indictment also includes alleged thefts involving copper and other items in Texas, New York, Florida, and South Carolina between March and September 2010.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates said, "Copper is disappearing at an alarming rate as its value has increased. People in our communities have heard of many smaller thefts, but these charges allege that this scheme involved about a half million dollars worth of copper. The indictment also alleges that this was an organized ring with a specific criminal plan. Our federal and local agencies are well aware of this demand for copper and increased criminal activity."

Each is charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce. Foubelo pleaded guilty to both counts on April 21. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 8, before U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr.

They each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 10 years for transporting stolen goods in interstate commerce. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. Grimberg and Special United States Attorney Laurel R. Boatright are prosecuting the case.